Carnival Ad Nauseum

A week is enough time to gain sufficient perspective on Carnival. It kicked off with the NFL Superbowl on Sunday night, which we watched on a Mexican channel in a local bar. We missed out on the commercials, but we did manage to catch some off-air chatter between the commentators, who discussed whether or not they were in the mood for pizza, among other things. The game started poorly, and by the time all the aged boat owners in the bar were singing along with Paul McCartney at halftime, we were thinking about leaving. Of course we stuck around, and after the New England Patriots inevitably won, we headed back to the boat and smoked Cuban cigars on deck for the hour and a half between the end of the game and the arrival of the 2 a.m. bus that was to take us to that night’s carnival event. There was no point in sleeping–our cushions were getting reupholstered the entire week, leaving us bare wooden planks for beds.

We are neither of us great dancers, nor fans of “soca” music, the bastard child of hip-hop and nails on a chalkboard(Not only is the music horrible, they literally have five songs they play over and over, and three of those they play even more often than the other two. They haunt us still.). As the common cold was setting in at just the wrong time, we weren’t in the mood for drinking, either.

If you had told me two years ago that 3 a.m. on 7 February 2005 would see me sitting next to a graveyard in Trinidad, dressed in a hula skirt and straw hat, eating a smoked herring sandwich, and miserably sipping coffee while septegenarians drank beer all around me, I might not have believed you. This pathetic scene was followed by five hours of walking slowly through the streets of St. James as speakers blared in our ears from the flatbed truck accompanying our group. Better still, sozzled yachties were delighting in slinging mud and paint at us, which, to be fair, was the point of j’ouvert, also known as “dirty ‘mas.” We managed to get home around eleven Monday morning, and after a thorough shower, the mud(and music) was out of our ears and we finally got some sleep.

Aaron went into town in the evening for another dose of Carnival, but didn’t stay too long. Tuesday morning we caught a bus into town for the final day of festivities. Billed as a “street party” and “parade” we stood around on the edge of the street waiting for something to go by. Every twenty minutes or so, a troupe of dancers did walk down the main drag, but it was hardly a parade. We spent a few hours wandering around the street, eating lunch, looking at costumes, reading a newspaper in the park, and watching the parade of brightly costumed dancers as they came more frequently in the early afternoon. Tired of crowds and music and Carnival, we caught our bus back in the evening, leaving the party in our wake.

Wednesday was a vast improvement, with the United States soccer team visiting Trinidad for a World Cup qualifying game. Fortunately, we had tickets and got to the Queen’s Park Oval well before the game started. There were certainly less than 100 American fans in the stands, and we were sitting with none of them. Consequently, people stared when we cheered the two U.S. goals. Luckily for us, the crowd was most animated during halftime, when their beloved “soca” music spewed from the stadium speakers. They gave their team little support until they scored five minutes from time, but the result was never in doubt and the United States fully deserved the 2-1 victory.

The remainder of the week was spent nursing illness, Aaron coming out second-best to a fierce cold. We did manage to make decent progress on the boat, installing most of the mast steps, reattaching a spreader, and rigging up the lazy jacks. Also, our newly upholstered cushions arrived, making the boat more attractive and much more comfortable. We hope to install the rest of the mast steps, as well as the roller furling for the staysail early next week, after which we’ll be ready to splash. A brief shakeout cruise to check all of the new systems, and we’ll head north to the Virgin Islands… assuming everything works.

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